To Year 12…

October 14, 2017

A few weeks ago, I was the guest speaker at a Yr 12 Final Assembly. A Drama teacher friend of mine, and this particular cohort’s Year Adviser, had asked me if I would give them a little sending off pep-talk. I was really chuffed to have been asked. So I wrote the following speech thinking of every student about to sit their HSC (or equivalent examination across Australia), regardless of what school they’re at. I wanted to share it with you; hope it resonates.
Paula x

Yr 12 Graduation speech

Hello Year 12. Well, you’re nearly there! Now that’s a phrase that has probably been uttered a few times of late or circling through your mind. Nearly there – there’s a solid, weighty truth to it and you may have a slight tug-of-war going on inside; a mixture of excitement to be out of the educational walls that have been nurturing you for the last 13 years and the fear of heading toward the unclear great beyond. And yes, it is unclear, but only insomuch as it’s not specific and thank goodness for that. How rigid would your choices be if everything were mapped out for you?
So I’m here to ask one main question for you to ponder:

What space are you going to fill in this complex world of ours?

Because we all DO have a space to fill – it’s nature; it’s balance; it’s important. The trick is to get on that path; but therein lies the conundrum, where one starts to question – what am I good at? What is this word ‘passion’ that keeps getting thrown around?

Now here is where we start to say, ‘I’m just a….’ We stick that ‘just’ there to diminish our abilities because we feel they don’t stack up to some idealised, limited vision our culture has thrust upon us. But I’m here to say that you must break free of those shackles because this world needs a spectrum of people with talents and drive to fill all the pockets and crevices of our world.

So who am I? My name is Paula and I, in my 47 years of existence, have added a few ‘justs’ to my collection of living:

* I’m just a high school Drama teacher of 20 years (A fair chunk of English too)

* Just a mother (of two daughters)

* About 5 years ago I discovered I was just a blog writer. I’ve stopped now but funnily enough I still say JUST even though I had 15 of my posts published by the Opera House on their Ideas at House site a few years back.

* I just got 350 out of 500 for my HSC back in 1987 (yes 30 years and I’m currently organising our reunion) and that mark was OK. Nothing fantabulous but not bad. You should know that the road to being a writer – as well as becoming an English teacher – was a challenging one because I was a baby when my parents and I fled the dictatorship in Uruguay and therefore growing up, I only spoke Spanish at home. I’ll tell you one thing, I NEVER imagined I’d do either of those things when I was sitting where you are today; or any of what was to come really.

Now none of these space fillers got handed to me on a sheet when I finished high school, they just unraveled as I participated. That’s the key word – PARTICIPATE – take action. As I plodded along, full of deep insecurities over what lay ahead for me, I found that walking in the general direction of what I wanted to do meant that opportunities arose that I was simply lucky enough to be in the general vicinity of – not somewhere else trying to please another set of people.

But let me make something very clear – not everything we want comes just because we want it to, but when you work hard at something that you’re proud of, someone always notices. Keep that in mind.

So what space are you going to fill?

Over three years ago, I became an activist. I had been doing a lot of writing about things I saw as being unjust on a blog but it wasn’t until a particular business came into our lives that it catapulted me into the label – activist.

The business is called Wicked Campers and they have vans for hire, popular with backpackers, with graffiti type images on the side and a slogan on the back for all to read. On a day in the July school holidays 2014, my daughter (then only 11) saw a Wicked van and its slogan whilst visiting the Blue Mountains with my parents. I was not with them. When I picked her up, the first thing she told me was what she had read and how it affected her. I was livid because the slogan was so bad, I can’t repeat it here today.

But this is when ‘Just Paula’ took a stand – I started a Change.org petition asking Wicked to take down any degrading and sexist slogans or imagery. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the numbers a petition can get but they may get a few thousand in a few weeks, but mine got 127, 000+ votes in four days. I was interviewed on about 15 radio shows, including Triple J Hack (twice now) and appeared on The Project. 133 articles were written globally, including The Huffington Post.

An awesome thing that came out of this was that Greens Senator Larissa Waters brought up a motion in The Senate to condemn Wicked Campers and there was – for the first time in a long, long time – a unanimous vote in The Senate that day. I also got an incredible, incredible amount of support from people far and wide.

A not so awesome thing that happened was that I received some death threats, hate emails and one guy in Queensland thought he’d make a ‘Wanted’ poster of me on FB and said I needed to be taught a lesson.

Wicked Campers agreed to my take down all their worst slogans within the following 6 months – but they lied. The only one they changed was the one my daughter saw. Funnily enough they changed it to ‘If only Noah had swatted those two mosquitoes’ and as Wicked had a history of using their vans to threaten people directly – like when journalist Lucy Clark wrote an unfavourable article about them, they wrote on a van with Dear Lucy, I can already imagine the gaffa tape on your mouth – I took that slogan to mean that my daughter and I were the mosquitoes. That’s OK, I thought, I can live with that because as an African proverb says – If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito; so that’s what I became.

It was a hard slog, but this year in March – after three years of continuing to fight – writing and speaking to the Advertising Standards Bureau, Government leaders, Australian Censorship Board; hitting social media and garnering the pivotal help from three incredible women – the QLD government changed legislation (followed by Tasmania) to cover the loophole and hold Wicked Campers accountable for those slogans that are, by the way, prohibited from going up on a billboard or an ad.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I’ve always seen myself as Just Paula. But I’m not – I’m much more. In 20 years of being a teacher, 14 years of being a mother and 5 years of being an activist – I have some expertise up my sleeve and I want to express to you an important point, this next step for you is not JUST about marks – the question is: what are you going to do with what you’ve learned? From both inside the classroom and especially outside of it.

One thing is for sure, you’re going to have to be brave – brave when stepping in the direction that feels right for you but not for others and brave when bucking the system when it is unfair – and there are no marks that cover that. Your character and gumption are going to be your armour.

I’ll leave it there but I want to say that you are our future and when life gets tough – and it will – remember that when you walk steadfast toward the horizon, it never gets closer, it always stays the same distance away. But when you look back, you can see how far you’ve come.

Deep Breath;

So what space are you going to fill?

Thank you.

 

I’ll leave you with the wise words of Yoda (words I have on the cover of my mark book at school):

Questions for *You*.

October 19, 2014

Just recently I had the incredible honour of presenting at the International Women’s Liberation Summit. It was an enthralling few days, hearing stories from such a rich pool of experience – not all nice, of course, but profoundly unifying.

The biggest issue I explored was the predictable and pedestrian narrative being spewed forth – one that has not deviated much, in essence, since the ’50s [Man = strong, brains, breadwinner, leader; Woman = weak, multi-tasker, housewife, follower] by the media and advertising at a ground-zero level; mainly through the common TV, the medium of choice, consumed by the masses.

My presentation – and my actual main concern with us human beings – addressed the way in which we perceive ourselves and categorise each other into labels; ever-restricting ones. I believe our obsession with labelling, will be our eventual undoing as a species.

It’s permeated every crevice from sex + gender through to race + religious beliefs; from what needs to be ‘tested’ in school to determine a student’s worth (label at the ready) through to perceptions of who a person is just from what job they have, where they live, clothes they wear, what they earn etc – all of which we know is ludicrous and non-sensical but something we sadly participate in (and consume), nonetheless.

The worst labelling by far, is sex; the label that hurts women and girls the most. It hurts us all, actually. We mustn’t forget the boys – because as easy (and true) as it is to say that males commit the most crimes, we must ask ourselves – how did they become the ‘monsters’ we keep reporting they are?

They were taught – just like girls are taught.

As the battle rages over what exactly a woman or man is, our media manages to showcase very strict guidelines as to how men and women are to be represented and perceived – this is the very labelling I want to debunk with our youth. They are our hope of change.

So I started a business to channel my activism toward them.

About three weeks before the Wicked Campers campaign in July, my business was born –  to present workshops about media literacy, how we relate to each other as human beings, resilience, consumption and more.

I’ve called the business Questions for You, as the questions will be the springboard toward healthy discussion – using critical thinking.
The central theme – and what I titled my presentation at the Summit – is:

The standard we walk past, is the standard we accept.

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I’ll tell you why our young ones are the answer. Recently, I had the privilege of seeing a volume of work, created by students, using film to tell a story. It was such an enlightening experience. I loved it. Some narratives blew me away and others reinforced stereotypes. The point is, however, that I saw a balance. And the incredible part is that I had no idea what sex had created what piece. Logic tells me that I saw sophisticated pieces equally from both males and females; all telling unique stories. This needs to be preserved and nurtured.

Turn to the TV and movie narratives, however, and we see something formulaic and banal. Our youth have the capacity to see beyond this but some need a guiding hand in helping them open their eyes to the ‘product’ they’re being sold – mainly what they’re being taught about each other and ‘how it is’. This sort of language will also be explored in workshops, as well as a lot of the clichés that keep humans bound to restricted perspectives; dealing equally with boys and girls.

Question #211: Does this sound like a program your school, child’s school, business or parents may benefit from?

My website: questionsforyou.com.au is ready for your perusal. Please peruse.

Action speaks louder than words, and this has never been more apparent for me. After 20 years of teaching, I feel a deep connection with our budding youth and have never felt more driven to do something, as I do with this.

I hope you’ll join me in this quest.

Deep, positive breath.
PS: Below is the back of my business card, which was designed by my dear friend Katy Donoghue of Giddy Up Graphics (I’ve known her since we were 7 years old). She rocked it. I do love it so. x Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 12.46.37 am

I have grappled with the issue of pitting and comparing the actions and/or adversities of one gender by using the other to illustrate, for a long time – but it simply does not sit right with me.

It is like comparing apples with oranges.

For the most part, I believe the intention is generally a positive one (which is a refreshing step toward good), but when perceptions and customs related to gender are so profoundly entrenched, it falls short of accurately addressing the deep-seeded issues of gender disparity.

Exhibit A:

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This is a familiar visual representation that now seems to be common practice in highlighting gender-label ridiculousness – namely, a female’s.

There are two issues I have with this sort of juxtaposition:

1. Females have always been represented in this way – used as (sexual) ornaments. Males never have. So when we look at the females in the images, we see ‘normal’ and when we scan across to the males in similar poses, we see humour.

Steve Carell, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert recently did a photo shoot, emphasising the ludicrous poses females are encouraged to do:

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Its intentions are admirable but – it’s not the same. It’s just funny.
That humour can (ultimately) also work negatively for the females they’re trying to help, by making them look stupid for participating in their own exploitation; for posing that way in the first place.

I recently saw a snippet of reality TV the other day – one that does renovations on houses. There was a moment where all the contestants had an impromptu dance-off, which lead to the inevitable circle where they strut their stuff in the middle. One of the women chose to be semi-provocative by doing some fetching grinding moves against her partner.
Next was a male. He also did a bit of a provocative dance. It was funny. Everyone laughed.

2. The biggest issue, however, is vulnerability.
When a female is posing sexually, she is vulnerable – her breasts may be practically exposed; she may be bending over something with a short skirt; she may be wearing impossible-to-walk-in-heels (not easy to escape anyone in high heels btw) – you follow my drift.
The males in these representations, however, are not vulnerable.
Their only place of vulnerability is their penis and that is (as always in this current paradigm) *fully* covered.

Everywhere; every time.

How ironic that we seem to find comfort in the male gender – dipped head high in privilege – outlining the woes of the ‘lesser’ gender. Double irony? In most cases it’s statistically males pushing females to pose this way in the first place.

OK, let’s turn the tables; in format as well as gender reversal.

Let’s look at how men are represented and doing the switch.

Exhibit B:

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The image above is from the show, Beauty and the Geek. Never before have I witnessed such a blatantly sexist prime-time show; super-gluing more gender stereotypes to an already fragile equation.
Female = sexy, hot and DUMB;
Male = be who you want to be, you can still get a ‘hot’ female.

Can you imagine a show – heck, a REALITY – where we see females who are daggy/geeky/nerds of various body shapes, together with ‘hot’ males?

I can – but know it’s a concept that is (for the most part) a flash in the pan.
I remember through ads that Glee had a moment where an overweight girl was coupled with the hot football player.

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I wonder how many people were genuinely comfortable watching that visual?
I say visual because that’s all ANY of this is based on.
It’s irrelevant whether personalities gel or if people have a profound connection, because ultimately that’s not the message that wants to get taught; there’s no money to be made, if females are secure within themselves, after all.

I intensely wish for a more equal and balanced playing field for females and the bottom line is that females are more than just being the packaging for males’ sexual fantasies.

Question #199: Isn’t this world ready – YET – to unlock the wonderful array of possibilities – just by getting past that horrifically limiting idea of females?

I’ll leave you to think.

My next post is my 200th Question.
Bring your thinking caps along.

Deep Breath.

x

The penny has dropped for me.

It happened last week; the week that saw this blog turn two – a blog that was spawned from the chasm of questions I had about myself and the world I was navigating through with my two daughters. At risk of sounding like a colossal cliché, it was, in fact, my phase as a mother that really drove the creation of the blog…I was starting to lose myself in the label and rubber stamp that is, mother’.
The intention was to engage with others and make some sense of the madness; to dig down to the dark and selfish root system our species seems to be drawing its inspiration from an attempt to unpack the question: How did we get to this toxic point in time?
An online discussion with radical feminist, Sister Trinity, saw me reach a pinnacle in my thinking. 

The problem is gender; more specifically gender roles and labels.

Before I delve deeper into that nugget, let me explain the angle from which I am coming.
I’m currently engaging in an intensive workshop with my daughters these holidays, teaching them to be smart about the actions they take. From as simple as how to hang a wet towel out to dry, to more complex scenarios – basically everything, really.
I’m teaching them to think of the big picture. Think and be smart; unlock some ingenuity. Narrow the problem down to its core and then take action that’s intelligent. The big picture has to include their fellow human beings (from a starting point of kindness) and therefore actions must cater to others’ rights. It all starts in the home in how we deal with each other and extends out. I am also participating in this little workshop I’ve concocted with the girls.

The A-Ha moment
Up until last week I systematically accepted that men and women had certain ‘characteristics’. Sister Trinity’s words to me, however, finally ignited a long-awaited burst of clarity which resonated succinctly to me:

“There is no ‘female mind’  – sex is physical.
Our bodies shouldn’t define who we are IN ANY WAY.
This is what feminism fights (should fight) for.
The idea that we are born with essentially ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ personalities – not just male and female bodies – is deeply offensive; since if you look at what ‘femininity’ stands for, it’s clear patriarchy has assigned the inferior and submissive caretaker role to us.”  

BAM!
And we know it’s correct because we know we don’t teach  according to ‘gendered’ brains. I am not altering what I’m teaching my daughters (nor in my classroom) due to whether they are male or female – I’m just teaching. As do you.

emotional-intelligence1

I still think that nature (which always pushes for procreation) draws man and woman together, but that should be it. Everything else is a construct. An ever-shrinking label of conformity. Everything.

If you’re shaking your head and thinking (as I do at times),  ‘But I AM this way through my choice’, I would simply ask you to just ponder how much has really been your choice? It’s not black and white, I know, but it deserves thought. This is not the moment for the discussion of ‘choice’ but we human beings have to agree that we have little choice in our lives – planet wide – when you critically reflect on it…except on how to spend your money, of course.

Nature v Nurture? I think the majority of it, is nurtured. 
If life is a complete construct and you’ve been told, since birth, how each gender ‘should’ behave and more importantly, what it should strive for in life (especially in the ‘western world’), then it only stands to reason that gender IS the root of many of the serious conundrums we’re facing today – stretching back through a very long and entrenched system. I once heard, on a documentary about genes and how they influence behaviour, that ‘Nature loads the gun and Nurture pulls the trigger.’ 

To explore even further, my birthday question to you is:

Question #196: What IS a woman?

Really think about this.

Pretty? Dumb? Sexy? Hairless? Mother? Nurturer? Weak? Desperate? Emotional (crying)? Whore? Wants to get married to a man and have babies? Bitch? Can’t make her own money so has to marry a man? Credit card addict? Shopping addict? Likes pink? Squeals if she sees a mouse? Likes housework? Nag? Knows how to get stains out? Multi-tasker?

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Whatever you add, these are all simply labels (what gender roles basically are) and countless women will vehemently disagree with being pigeon-holed into these labels because we know that what’s inside us is unique and that the only thing women and girls have in common is (in the big scheme of things) a female reproductive system (functioning or not). 

For that matter, what is a man?
The boss? Bread winner? Player? Intelligent? The Man?  Powerful? Ruler? Strong? Stupid? Emotional (violent)? Rapist? Detached emotionally? Hates the idea of being ‘tied down’? Under the thumb?  Needs a man cave? Handyman? Car hoon? Ejaculation obsessed? Blue wearer? Sports obsessed? Violent video games obsessed? Dickhead? Useless? Pants only?
Same goes here, as above. All constructed labels. The difference is that males benefit greatly from this list.

I'm Glad 8

The world we have designed is ludicrous. We have become stupid.
We have allowed this design/system  to nurture an obsession with greed and to revolve around giving the penis full privilege in seeking out what it needs to gain satisfaction. Mainly women (and ever more girls).

Whilst the subservient females fulfil their destinies as mothers and housekeepers, whilst juggling all the injustices and inequalities that are thrown their way – again only due to their biology.

In short, we are suffocating the true potential of what we can achieve – for all – as a species.

This stagnant construct can change through how we raise our children. To quote Yoda, we have to ‘unlearn what we have learned‘ and give our children a basis that teaches that we all have unique and amazing bodies that provide natural functions and miracles, but it is our mind that can do, be and express itself in whichever way it wants – as long as the rights that one expects for oneself, are afforded to the rest.

To practise humanity.

We need to be smart about this.

Deep Breath.

x

Pass it on.

December 22, 2013

Does anyone remember the movie, Awakenings?

Based on a true story, Robert De Niro plays a patient – one of many – who is catatonic. They are all ‘awakened’ from their condition by a doctor (Robin Williams), testing a new drug which seemed to work…until it didn’t. I have this image in my head from the film, where De Niro’s character’s health is regressing and deteriorating; where the viciousness of his spasms cause his muscles to slowly seize, rendering them stiff and him catatonic, once again. (I cried for about half-an-hour after that movie ended, when I was at Uni. Head buried in a pillow.)

As of late, I’ve been experiencing moments where I feel mentally unable to move. The instances, and the related feelings that come with them, are happening a little bit more often as time passes.
I feel stiffened by the world – machine at work – people surrounding all of us and running the show. The drive to make excessive moneyat all costs, regardless of who or what suffers – sickens me.
And it’s not just in the dark, underbelly of life – it’s disgustingly in government and big business; hand in hand; cutting more and more corners at our expense. There is no escape from it – the Internet makes sure of that, of course; with pictures and everything:
Atrocities being done to people – predominantly women and children;
Atrocities being done to animals;
Atrocities being done to the planet;
By Bullies.

oppression

Question #194: Where’s the outcry?

There are many ‘regular’ people out there – wonderful people with courage – driven to do something and speak up. A common way to raise awareness is by starting a petition. My heart aches to see the flow of terribly unjust issues going on and on out there; as they appear in my Newsfeeds and emails. It’s so deflating.
Helen Razer recently posted a piece about her refusal to sign petitions (amongst other actions) saying:

“If you just want me to sign your online petition, I will not sign it until you sign my online petition declaring that the purpose of online petitions is to draw attention to the fact that one has signed an online petition.”

I don’t agree with her comment above. I think there are many petitions out there that, with a big enough *outcry*, can (and do) create change.

But again – where is it?

I write here; I call things out and discuss different perspectives with the few who indulge me;
I share petitions calling for actionsometimes they work, but on the whole people stay mute; I also started a campaign with my friend Lily Munroe, to ‘Lose the Lads’ Mags’ and we’ve collected some great support from Collective Shout and awesome activists like Steve Biddulph. We have been just about ready to go for a few months now, but have been temporarily halted in the search for legal help. When we get going, a petition will be launched.

This is the juncture, where we seem to hit the wall.
Regardless of what action is taken – one still hits that wall of indifference…or hate.
The change that’s urgently needed for a more just existence for all, seems near impossible with our current paradigm – an overpopulated one – where Greed and the attainment of excessive money is far, far stronger – even (especially?) amongst our common populace.

So here I am – finding myself slowly stiffening, due to the lack of change for things we all know have to. As I look one way and see an injustice being called out, I read the vitriolic labels, clichés and criticisms that ooze out of trolls and the ignorant, through their comments – inherently saying, “Shhhhhhh….”

This post took me days to write and I nearly scrapped it all together. I feel like I’m getting repetitive – which is, in actual fact, the point; if it’s getting repetitive, then we have a problem, right? But ultimately, my posts are possibly causing the same reaction in you, that the cruel and grim realities of so very, very many of our own kind, are having on me.

So I’m stepping back from the blog for a mo’. I’m going to enjoy this holiday period with my family and wish the same for you.
A little more kindness – that’s what I’m pushing with my girls in how they treat each other.

The world is thirsty for it too.

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I hope 2014 is the ‘Year of Action’ where we, the people, band together as a race and balance things out a bit. It’s getting hideous out there.

I still have a plethora of things to say but they’re just going to come, when they come.
In the meantime, there are nearly two years’ worth of posts on this blog, covering many an issue. I invite you to take a stroll back there – maybe even partake in a wee chat with me.

I wish you all a Christmas that is merry, safe and full of awesome!
Lots of love to you and your loved ones.
Pass it on.

Paula x

Deep Breath.

It has recently become more painfully apparent, that there is a common thread to what we consume when watching a screen – whether large or small.

Stories of boys and men. Males.

Please understand that I have no problem whatsoever with these kinds of stories – many of my favourite movies fall in this category – but over the last 10 years, it’s become a tad tedious.

Endless stories of boys coming of age – men fulfilling their destinies – older man taking younger man/teen/boy under his wing etc. etc. etc.

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But where’s the female equivalent?

I recently asked my husband why he doesn’t watch women’s sport and he answered: 
“I only want to watch the best.”

I was dubious of this answer because I thought: ‘Women are the best of their sports too.’
 To explain, he used a sport he doesn’t watch – Boxing.
 He said that if he were to watch a boxing match, he wouldn’t watch a featherweight fight, he’d want to watch the biggest and strongest men battling it out. The best.

I actually understood. I even think most people would agree with that logic.

OK. Soooo…

Question #192: What do we worship about women on an equal level?

And it IS worship. Sportsmen with flames superimposed behind them on TV snippets, slow motion footage, both males and females equally celebrating them and what they do. Worship.

If men are physically strong and we honour that about them – what do we honour about women?

We can’t have a world where one half of our human race is continually watched, nurtured and guided to feel they can achieve ANYTHING and not have that same respect for the other half.

But that’s exactly what we have.

So what is there? 
I asked this of my husband but he had no answer or chose not to.

The only thing I can think of – is porn; there is nothing else.

Now, let’s have a squiz at what’s happening up on the movie screen.

The Bechdel Test comes from a cartoon strip by Alison Bechdel from 1985, in which ‘The Rule’ for evaluating films was explained:

In order to pass, the film or show must meet the following criteria:

  • It includes at least two women;

(Some make the addendum that the women must be named characters)

  • who have at least one conversation;

(Because of quibbles regarding what length of time makes a valid conversation, some have proposed the addendum that it last at least 60 seconds)

  • about something other than a man or men. 

(The exact interpretation of this can vary; some feel that it’s okay to mention a man or men so long as they’re not the primary subject of the conversation, while others will demand a conversation where men aren’t mentioned at all. Some make the addendum that the conversation also cannot reference marriage, babies, or romance)*

Most films – sadly – fail this test.

Have a look for yourself. TV shows too.

In her 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf wrote what she observed in regards to the literature of her time:

‘All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. So much has been left out, unattempted. And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends.  They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that; and how little can a man know even of that when he observes it through the black or rosy spectacles which sex puts upon his nose.’

How fascinating…and depressing.

Nothing. Changes.

So what is it with us?

Why do we find it so hard to watch women in equal (but different) representation to men and boys?

Deep Breath.

x

* http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/TheBechdelTest?from=Main.TheBechdelTest

A weighty issue.

October 19, 2013

Weight.

Women’s weight.

Girls’ weight.

Your weight.

Her weight.

An entrenched obsession – incessantly being discussed in all forms – being passed on from adult woman to intently watching and learning girl.

Chelsea, a fan who follows my Facebook page, sent me an email due to the following meme that I found and put up on my page:

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I LOVE the message of it but I also questioned whether the body in the image was the most realistic for the message. Chelsea wrote:

I’m a naturally slender and tall woman. I can gladly say I am proud of my body just the way it is but I’m sometimes made to feel guilty about this. It’s becoming increasingly common for people like me to be called unnatural or unrealistic. I know that what is portrayed in the media is often not a healthy image but I think we should be starting a movement of acceptance that we are all different in so many ways and that it’s important to be healthy and happy rather than still trying to paint a picture of what ‘real’ women look like.

This is part of what I responded to her:

I want – with all my soul – to live in a world where women’s bodies are not even an issue; that it’s just a vessel which houses an amazing human being.
I may sometimes focus on the larger figured women on this page, to help those who feel shame about their size and to hopefully help them start having more positive thoughts about themselves.
I am a naturally slender and tall woman too and lost 10 kilos (2 and a half years after giving birth to my second child). Many said I’d lost too much weight – although for my height I was well within the healthy weight range. But people still passed judgement.
I didn’t really do much to lose that weight – it’s like my body became that way with a few minor changes to diet but a
major change to my attitude toward my body. I loved it.
That’s what really worked.

I know many healthy women who are both overweight AND underweight – it’s just the body they have.
I similarly know women who do no exercise and eat poorly but are ‘slim’ . However, they may have issues down the track with their health.
A lot of the time – weight has little to do with health.

*** AND NOTHING TO DO WITH BEAUTY ***

Beauty is a state of mind.

I agree with Chelsea that the term, ‘Real Woman’, can be damaging because we are ALL real women – even slender ones.

The following is from a wonderful series of cartoons from Colleen Clark’s Body Image Comic. This first one hits the nail on the head:

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I have to admit that it was only recently that I had a moment of clarity with my own daughters’ figures, purely due to how different their bodies are. Polar opposites.

My eldest has always been an eager eater…from birth.
I (and my husband) have always looked out for her – purely from a health perspective; an intake of too much food (or too much of the wrong foods) would cause imbalance in the body.

She is nearly 11. She is tall for her age; a muscly, solid, amazonian girl.

My 7 year old is another matter entirely. Some may describe her as skeletal.
Her weight is fine for her age, but her height is quite a bit taller – hence her slim shape.

Both my girls are unique. Their bodies are unique. As each woman’s body is unique.
They eat well and are always on the move – yet they look completely different.
I’m sure, however, that both – especially my eldest, will be judged.

They will see, as a gender, women (and girls) being miserable with the way they look – endlessly comparing themselves to the few who fall into the ‘beautiful’ category.

But it is simply a category – one that’s designed to instil insecurity for the pure purpose of making billions of dollars – forever making us doubt our worth.

Question #188: Why do women believe so heavily in all this and participate in its perpetuation?

Well, I will not do it to my daughters.
Their figures are what they are and I will simply guide them toward their bodies being nurtured as healthily as possible.

I want this to be the lesson:

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Deep Breath.

Now exhale.
You’re radiant just as you are.

Now go be a great role model.

xxx

How I see Malala.

October 13, 2013

I’m finding my mind swimming – literally swimming – with thoughts and perceptions that I want to articulate in a coherent and succinct manner. But there are so many and sometimes it just doesn’t help that I want to shout and use a shit-load of profanity.

I’m getting so weary and disappointed at our microscopically slow pace of change, that I have this to say:

One important lesson to gain from Malala (not the obvious one).

Yesterday I read an article that had a great impact on me.

Malala Yousafzai and the White Saviour Complex

It says:

This is a story of a native girl being saved by the white man. Flown to the UK, the Western world can feel good about itself as they save the native woman from the savage men of her home nation. It is a historic racist narrative that has been institutionalised. Journalists and politicians were falling over themselves to report and comment on the case. The story of an innocent brown child that was shot by savages for demanding an education and along comes the knight in shining armour to save her.

The actions of the West, the bombings, the occupations the wars all seem justified now, “see, we told you, this is why we intervene to save the natives.”

I agree. It practically looks like a PR stunt and I don’t like that Malala looks like she’s being used as a pawn in this seemingly deceptive agenda.

I also agree that there are A LOT more Malalas out there.

But this is the point where I want to deflect and add something important.

It’s not just that these girls need urgent saving – and they absolutely do – the motivation that has to power the movement of change, is the realisation that:

This world NEEDS girls and women like Malala.

It’s the missing ingredient for things to improve.

Girls and women.

NOT to take over. Equal representation.

If women – according to the Patriarchy – are supposedly the nurturers and carers, then the question shouldn’t be, ‘What have we got to lose?’ (because the only answer is money) but:

Question #187: What have we got to gain?

Simply, I think a great, great deal of good.

When are we going to evolve?
Don’t we want a happy planet for all, instead of this realm of greed, despair, rage and destruction?

I just want to finish by saying, that I think Malala is astonishing. A true hero. An inspiration.

I don’t care in the foggiest that the western world has made a big fuss about her – she absolutely deserves our full attention.
What a wonder she is.

Now let’s WAKE UP and channel that toward educating our children – in schools and at home – by teaching them to be the cogs of change.

Our youth is the answer – with our guidance.

If you’re thinking that you’ll give it a try (which would be awesome) – I would also like to respond with the famous words of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back:

“Do or do not; there is no try.”

What are you going to do?

Something.

Anything. However small.

We must start to act as a collective.

Deep Breath.

x

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It’s all so pedestrian.

August 27, 2013

Crass.

Dirty.

Unbalanced.
…not her – the representation of her performance.

How sad that Miley Cyrus seems to have completed the traditional transition from wholesome teen to hyper-sexualised, ‘gagging-for it’, young woman.

Anyone who has read my posts, knows that I am ALL FOR women being sexually liberated and having confidence when it comes to their sexual wants and needs.

ALL FOR IT.

But what Miley Cyrus does here – at the Video Music Awards a few nights ago – is not that.

It’s a gimmick.

A show – for those with a lecherous gaze.

Something to cause a reaction.

After all, that’s what it’s all about – the music…right?

Grinding up against a man – who is *surprise! surprise!* fully dressed whilst she is near naked, just drips in this current pop culture’s conditioning and grooming of the following:

Lesson #1: To ‘make it’ as a female artist – you have to be fuckable.
To be noticed as a woman – you have to be fuckable.

And be sure to send all the boys and girls out there, this important memo – that that is what’s important, if you want to ‘make it.’

Also plaster it everywhere they turn – just so the message truly sinks in.

Let’s also not forget that Robin Thicke is equally to blame here.
It’s shameful (but sadly unsurprising) how little there is about him when this performance is being discussed.

A married man, singing about the ‘blurred lines’ of a woman’s consent, whilst a young woman half his age is bent over in front of him, twerking up against his crotch.

Lesson #2: Male is sexually dominant.

Miley has just received Honours in the club – the club with many members:

Brittany Spears
Christina Aguilera
Selena Gomez
Vanessa Hudgens…

etc. etc. etc.

Snore
Snore
Snore

Question #180: When is a bit of class going to come back into how young women express their healthy sexuality?

One that’s balanced to their male counterpart’s…

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Now THAT would be cutting edge.

Deep Breath.

x

I have to say that this is one of those conundrums for me.

In my quest to continually question the imbalance of our existence – I wanted to explore why we continue to shroud this illusive appendage in such an opposing way to women’s objectification.

I was listening to Triple J the other morning and comedian Wil Anderson was on the radio.
He was discussing the rule with men – that you never look at another man’s penis whilst at the urinal.

OK I get that. It would be an invasion of privacy.

But it just made me wonder – what’s the big hoo-ha about the penis, anyway?
Why all the mystery?

At the beach last summer,  I saw quite a few three-quarter length board shorts being worn – protecting its owners from exposing even the hint of a bulge.

No more speedos anymore. No sir-ee.

Why?

Is it to hide its size?
Or protect boys and men from the gaze of other men?
Is that something that’s feared?

Surely if it were for the gaze of women, there wouldn’t be a problem…right?

I know it’s the fashion at the beach – but you can’t disagree with the juxtaposition; that men seem to be more and more covered, whilst women are more and more exposed.

And not just on the beach.

In the movies – for example – we NEVER see the penis.

Why are men afforded such privacy?

Why are women not?

We have fully naked women on the screens (the big screen as well as the smallest) and yet it doesn’t matter how much time passes – how much we ‘evolve’ – the penis remains mystically cloaked from human gaze.

It must be nice to know – if you’re male and in the movie industry – that you’ll never have to make that choice, whether to have your penis filmed or not.

Ever.

Men are not vulnerable; like women are vulnerable.
And a man’s vulnerability – it seems – is his penis.
A woman’s? Her near or complete nudity.

The second issue I have with the penis, is its massive (no un intended) irony.

As much as it is used and wielded as a weapon throughout the world and is seen as the symbol of manhood – it is also a man’s Achilles Heel, so to speak – is it not?

As Betty White says:

“Why do people say,
‘Grow some balls’?
Balls are weak and sensitive.
If you wanna be tough,
Grow a vagina.
Those things can take a pounding.”

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Is this post an attack on manhood?

No – it is not.

Do I want to see penises plastered all over our screens?

No – but there shouldn’t be a Holier-than-thou style, cover-up either.

A penis is just a penis.

Or is it?

So, I ask again – what’s the big deal?